32 Star Island Rd., Montauk
SERVICE: Friendly, accommodating
AMBIENCE: Warm, modern style; noisy on weekend nights
ESSENTIALS: Reservations recommended weekdays, necessary weekends. Dinner, 5:30-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 5:30-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accesible from east side entrance.
The Montauk Yacht Club started as a private resort in 1927. Big names were present: Whitney, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Astor.
But the biggest one has arrived this summer.
Jeremy Blutstein transforms dining out at the remade waterside resort. Showfish, the Amagansett native’s star turn, is the grandest East End opening of 2019.
The yacht club now is Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina, from the owners who turned a fading Gurney’s Inn into the high-end, splashy Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, complete with a stellar oceanfront restaurant, Scarpetta Beach.
And Showfish overlooks the marina and Lake Montauk. The restaurant and the resort have been redesigned from the days when a model of Jay Gould’s steam yacht Atalanta was moored in the lobby and the kitchen condemned innumerable lobsters.
Showfish’s most colorful predecessor was Ziegfeld’s, three decades ago. In addition to its nod to impresario Florenz, who owned property nearby, it’s remembered for briefly employing a chef who fed Ed Koch and made memorable cheesecake. Another Ziegfeld’s cast member founded a cookie empire and Manhattan’s long-departed Chez Louis.
The look and mood today deliver a warmer, more modern approach, in neutral hues. You’re unlikely to think of any history garbed in blazers and paid for with Silver Certificates. But you can go through a lot of Federal Reserve notes at a single sitting.
Semicircular, banquette-inspired seating shapes the new, handsome dining area. On your way in, you’ll notice finfish arranged on ice and lobsters in their final waiting room, and be ready for a cocktail.
Heat seekers, consider the “1tequila2tequila,” with habanero pepper-infused Herradura Reposado tequila, fresh strawberries, and lime. Neoclassicists, contemplate “rosa y tonica,” with Tanqueray gin, fragrant tonic, pink grapefruit, and thyme.
Enter chef Blutstein, who resides in Amagansett and ardently advocates local farms and fishing boats. He joins Gurney’s after about two years as chef de cuisine at Almond, the excellent bistro in Bridgehampton; and a stint as executive chef at The Crow’s Nest in Montauk.
Savor his elegant scallop carpaccio, heady with huckleberry agrodolce, spiced cashew, Meyer lemon, and a burst of marigold-tinted basil oil. It’s to be succeeded soon by a version with foraged sea beans, sungold tomatoes, pickled onions, sesame and basil oils, lemon juice, espelette pepper, and borage flowers.
Try the polished tuna crudo, jump-started with preserved lemon, smoked chile oil, capers, crumbled pumpernickel, and nasturtium. Or pick “slightly cured” Montauk fluke crudo with cucumber, almond, and horseradish. Maybe smoked bluefish rillettes on toast, with pickled ramps and dill pollen: refreshing enough to make you rethink a swimmer often described as too “fishy.” Grilled Spanish octopus, accented with salsa verde and espelette pepper, rivals them.
Blutstein prepares a light lobster veloute, with pickled salsify and flowering spring onion. But tagliatelle, enriched with creamy uni butter, mild Jonah crab, and “chovy crumbs,” is overwhelmed by a fierce rush of Calabrian chiles.
The executive chef stands out, however, with a stunning, house dry-aged, bone-in tuna “rib-eye” for two, treating the beefiest fish as prime steak and, not surprisingly, charging as much. Order it rare or medium-rare for a singular dish, accompanied by twice-cooked potatoes and sauteed local greens. Unconvinced beefeaters will be satisfied with the flavor-packed 48-day, dry-aged New York strip loin, finished with smoked bone marrow-maitre d’hotel butter. But the panzanella salad alongside needs more verve.
Blutstein excels with roasted tilefish, joined by vinegar-braised leeks, chive blossom, crab toast, and Urfa biber, the Turkish pepper with a modest kick. “Rock ‘n roll” seared scallops turn musical via a curried sunchoke puree, carrot chimichurri, and duck prosciutto. Perfectly cooked lobsters, which weigh from two to five pounds, mandate only a squirt of lemon and a line of credit.
The Foster Farm blackberry tart, with hibiscus curd, gentle ginger pastry cream, and mint is the essential dessert and could be shared. For a tropical finale, there’s the mango tembleque, a snappy spin on the Puerto Rican sweet, with coconut rice pudding, mango chutney, and shaved palm sugar.
Of course, like everything else, they’re both rich.